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2 French soldiers likely killed in failed hostage rescue, defense minister says

By CNN Staff
updated 10:02 PM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
An undated TV grab shows Denis Allex, a French hostage allegedly held -- and possibly killed -- by Somali militants.
An undated TV grab shows Denis Allex, a French hostage allegedly held -- and possibly killed -- by Somali militants.
  • French officials say it is likely two soldiers died and a hostage was killed in a raid in Somalia
  • Militants say the hostage is still alive and being held at an undisclosed location
  • French forces failed to free an intelligence agent held by an al Qaeda-linked group

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- A soldier missing in action since a failed attempt to rescue a French hostage in Somalia is most likely dead, France's defense minister said Monday.

The hostage, Denis Allex, also apparently was killed, Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said.

French officials had previously confirmed that one soldier died in Friday's failed attempt to rescue Allex from Islamist militants. On Monday, le Drian said it was likely that a total of two French soldiers were killed.

"Everything points to the fact that the hostage was murdered and that the missing soldier has been killed," le Drian told CNN affiliate BFM.

U.S. helps France fight African Islamists
French militant operations in Africa
Map: Mogadishu, Somalia

Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist movement that has been holding Allex, said Monday that the hostage remained alive in an undisclosed location.

The militants also said Monday that a French soldier who had been injured in the attempted rescue had died of his wounds.

A Twitter post from Al-Shabaab on Monday showed a purported photograph of that soldier with a message to France's president: "Was it worth it?"

On Friday, French forces engaged in a fierce gunbattle with militants in their attempt to rescue Allex, who was a member of the DGSE, France's equivalent of the CIA and a part of its Defense Ministry.

The clashes in Bulo Marer, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Mogadishu, the capital, ended with 17 Islamist fighters dead, according to the French Defense Ministry.

On Monday, le Drian said the failure of the rescue mission was "extremely regrettable."

"The operation almost succeeded," he told BFM. "They are very complicated and risky missions, because we are behind enemy lines."

French bid to rescue hostage fails

Allex was abducted on July 14, 2009, while on a mission in Mogadishu in support of the transitional Somali government, the French Defense Ministry said. French media reports suggest that Denis Allex is a pseudonym for the military serviceman.

French officials said they launched the rescue attempt after the terror group failed to negotiate for the hostage's release for years while holding him in inhumane conditions.

CNN's Nima Elbagir, Dheepthi Namasivayam and Richard A. Greene and journalist Omar Sheikh Nor contributed to this report.

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